Haircuts with a heart

Senior citizens getting their hair cut by members of volunteer group Willing Hearts.

SINGAPORE - Retirees Chan Kwai Fong, 80, and Yeo Chan Tung, 65, get regular free haircuts at a void deck near their Henderson Road home.

The couple have problems walking and cannot move too far.

That is why at 9am on the third Saturday of every month, they gather with 15 to 20 other senior citizens outside the Thye Hua Kwan Seniors' Activity Centre (THK SAC) branch at Block 93, Henderson Road.

There, they get free cuts from Willing Hearts, a haircutting volunteer group made up of seven senior citizens.

Said Madam Chan in Cantonese: "I have no income, that is why I am here".

The couple survive on Mr Yeo's savings, after he retired last year from brewing coffee in a coffee shop.

They live in a two-room rental flat and have been getting free haircuts since Willing Hearts started the project at Henderson Road over a year ago.

Madam Chan gets one every month, while her husband has one every two months.

Goals

Willing Hearts' goals tie in with the THK SAC's aim of catering various services to the needy elderly living in Henderson.

Volunteers also cut the hair of another 20 to 40 senior citizens at North Bridge Road and Bukit Merah Community Centre every month.

Asked why she's doing this, group leader Joyce Shum, 72, said: "I'm doing this because I want to keep myself active. Besides contributing to society, I want to keep myself healthy".

Around three years ago, she joined a haircutting course, funded by the Government, with other senior citizens.

After the course, a group of them decided to band together to provide a free haircutting service.

A few others joined in over time.

Ms Shum refuses to accept that being old means that one is automatically locked out from society.

She lamented: "Why is it that people think that when you're old, you're no longer useful?"

Her zest for life is shared by her group.

Ms Jennifer Chin, 59, a chef at the Esmirada restaurant in Orchard Hotel, said: "When I go down to the void decks and… I see these elderly people… I see that someone should take care of them. You feel happy after… playing a part in society".

Another member, Ms Alice Seem, a 65-year-old part-time hairstylist, finds joy in talking to the senior citizens she helps.

She said in Mandarin: "The elderly will talk to us and compliment us, and we will feel happy. Feeling this, you want to continue with what you're doing".

For residents like Mr Mok Theng Hui, 83, Willing Hearts provides a needed service.

Speaking in Teochew, the retiree said: "If Willing Hearts doesn't come down, we will need to pay for the nearby barber. I will always wait for them to come."

Having benefited from their service for over a year, he said: "I am happy with the haircutting and have no complaints".

The members of Willing Hearts are not planning to stop any time soon.

Said Ms Peggie Wee, a 66-year-old retiree who is a member of Willing Hearts: "I want to age gracefully, instead of staying at home… I will continue (this) for as long as possible."


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